Fingers write with polished nails
white on black
right to left
left to right
they spell the same opinion
that she erases herself,
she’s learnt caution in both directions.
Between past and present voices
declarations rub out
before her mouth fills their shapes
Ghost smudges in reversible lines
were once articulate, now the letters merge –
they were just words
too quickly erased to be remembered.
She moves right to left
left to right.
She chalks up translated doubts
to start a dialogue
between her selves in different places,
they leave nothing more
than stained fingers.
Her words in transit
leave behind a memory
in white on black.
Would you mind if I stayed here?
Must I ask? Would you mind if I stayed here?
Your demands tinge my choices with regret,
My foreign skin leaves thoughts you seem to fear.
This place has buried me deeper each year
Repeated acts now hold me fast, and yet
I must ask if you mind that I stay here?
My questions hang too long to disappear.
I try to find the reason you’re upset
By foreign skin. What thought is it you fear?
Distrusting faces of strangers walk near
With loud opinions and ideas hard-set,
They make me ask: would you mind if I stayed here?
While I’m heavy with all I overhear
And daily calls to leave won’t let me forget,
I won’t ask if you mind that I stay here.
My foreign skin is just skin. Leave your fear.
Claire Wilson: Some years ago I worked with refugees on the Thai/Myanmar border where my concepts of home and freedom were challenged. These poems consider situations where people have to constantly be cautious about what they say as they can never be sure of who is listening, or circumstances where people’s freedom to move from place to place is constricted. These freedoms of speech and movement are things that we take for granted in Australia. For me these poems are a way to reflect upon the multifaceted experiences of migrants or refugees as well as the complexities of settling into a new place where it can be difficult to reconcile these past experiences with the expectations of a new community.
Claire Rosslyn Wilson is a regular writer for Art Radar and Culture360 and has co-written a book on Freelancing in the Creative Industries (Oxford University Press). Her poems published in various journals and she writes poems about the objects around us at clairerosslynwilson.
Image: Christine and Hagen Graf/Flickr